Victor Moscoso was one of the most fascinating artists of the psychedelic era. The only academically trained artist among the leading poster designers, he relied on innovative optical effects that gave his psychedelic posters a unique "vibrative" quality. Moscoso's fame rests on the brilliant series of posters that he did for Chet Helms and the "Family Dog" and the "Neon Rose" series that he created for the Matrix in the 1960's.
Moscoso was born in Spain, but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Because of his early interest in art, he attended Cooper Union before transferring to Yale. At Yale, Moscoso studied with the modern colorist Joseph Albers, whose color theories were an important influence on Moscoso and the development of the psychedelic poster.
Moscoso moved west in 1959 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, where he received his MFA. After graduation, he remained at the Art Institute, where he taught lithography and forged a career as a freelance graphic designer. In the fall of 1966, as the psychedelic era was being born, he began designing posters for the Family Dog, the promotional collective that produced acid-fueled dance shows at the Avalon Ballroom.
Project The Matrix
February 16, 1967
Neon Rose Series
with Cherry Pie (1967)
Lithograph, 28" x 22"
Printed by Neon Rose
Moscoso distilled the understanding of color relationships that he learned from Joseph Albers into his poster design work. He would create an optical effect in the viewer by alternating deeply saturated primary colors. The juxtaposition of colors would create the illusion of the poster moving back in forth in space. Moscoso used more conventional typefaces than some of the other designers, usually letters with large serifs, but he bent and twisted them into interesting shapes that viewers had to strain to read.
In 1968, after the psychedelic poster scene had peaked, Moscoso became a leading artist for the underground comics. He became one of the main contributors to Robert Crumb's legendary Zap Comix. While working in comics, Moscoso designed magazine cover art, billboards and album covers for Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Herbie Handcock.
In May of 2002 Moscoso was invited to present a slide show of his work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The American Institute of Graphic Arts presented this retrospective look at nearly forty years of his outstanding design work. Today, Moscoso is still at the height of his powers and is he is in the process of completing a book on his life and work.
2003 Jeffrey Morseburg
Not to be reproduced without the author's specific permission.